The current British Royal family established in 1917 by Queen Elizabeth II’s grandfather, King George V. But members can trace their blue blood back centuries. In fact, all the English kings and queens are descendants in one way or another of King Alfred the Great, who held court over the nation between 871 and 886. So as you can imagine, there’s a long line of tragic deaths in that equally lengthy history.
While more recent bereavements like that of Diana Princess of Wales are etched into the world’s collective memory, there are other lesser-known though no less dreadful deaths in the royal family tree. Sickly Prince John died at just 13-years-old in 1919. Prince William of Gloucester never stepped out of his crashed plane in 1972. And King George III became blind and deaf and suffered from dementia, spouting nonsense for months until his death in 1820.
It might sound like a dream life–being a prince, princess, or even a queen or king. Indeed, the fairytales and movies we grew up with certainly paint it so. But as you can gather, the closer you get to the throne, the darker things get. Watch on to discover the facts behind some of the Most Tragic Deaths in the British Royal Family since the 1800s.
Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales (1817)
It’s honestly surprising that the tale of Princess Charlotte hasn’t made into a blockbuster movie yet. Her short life was full of intrigue and scandal, though she was also beautiful and very popular with the British public. She was the equivalent of a 19th-century Instagram influencer. Princess Charlotte, known formally by her full title Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales, was born to George IV, who started his career as a ruler in 1811 as Prince Regent. His own father, George the III, deemed unfit to rule due to declining mental health. (We’ll talk about him next). George IV was a decidedly unpopular king, but he did contribute something, or more aptly someone. To British life that his subjects adored: his daughter, Princess Charlotte.
As a teen, she had affair after affair. First with an Army caption, then with a couple of low-on-the-royal-tier princes. In 1814, her family betrothed her to William, Hereditary Prince of Orange, but she was having none of it. Instead, she broke protocol and broke off the wedding, convincing her family to let her marry Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg in 1816 instead. The British public loved this handsome couple. And Princess Charlotte reached new heights of popularity when she announced her first pregnancy. Sadly, she died in childbirth in 1817, at just 21 years of age, her child stillborn. For weeks, the public mourned her death, pooling funds to construct a tomb in the Royal Vault at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor.
King George III (1820)
King George III reigned over Great Britain for a whopping sixty years. During his tumultuous life, he was the man in charge during the Seven Years’ War between England and France, the American War of Independence, and the Battle of Waterloo that saw Napoleon defeated. Sadly, later in life, King George III began to suffer from recurring bouts of mental illness. It said that he would speak nonsense for hours, didn’t understand that his wife had died in 1818. And was almost entirely deaf, blind with cataracts, and in constant pain from arthritis. Some historians have suggested he may have had bipolar disorder. Though the exact cause of his madness has never officially determined. Despite all this, he remained popular with the British public until he died in 1820, though the same can’t said for his wayward son, George IV.
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Prince Albert (1861)
The death of King George IV’s only daughter, Princess Charlotte, in 1817 left the monarch heirless. When he died in 1830, the crown placed on his brother’s head, King Willian IV. However, William also had no heirs (though he did have at least ten illegitimate children), so on his death in 1837, an 18-year-old Victoria–niece to King William–was crowned the next Queen of England. Though pressured by her advisors to marry as quickly as possible, Queen Victoria dismissed the idea. That was until she met Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the man who would become the love of her life. Albert, the queen’s first cousin, and Victoria fell madly in love with each other almost after their first meeting, marrying in 1840, not long after the queen proposed.
Queen Victoria was ecstatic, and the couple celebrated their union with a lavish ceremony that set the tone for the wedding pageantry and white dresses of today. The couple had nine children together and were settling in for a long life together. Then, in 1861, Albert paid a visit to his son, Albert Edward (known as Bertie), and caught typhoid fever. He died just three weeks later. Queen Victoria devastated and wore black mourning clothes for the rest of her long life.
Prince John (1919)
Prince John, commonly known as “The Lost Prince” by historians, was the youngest child of George V and Queen Mary. He was a much-loved member of the family, beloved for his endless optimistic attitude. He suffered from fits from an early age and diagnosed with epilepsy in 1909. Though it’s popularly believed that he sequestered away in the countryside, reportedly for his safety, historians have found this to be untrue. He regularly appeared at family and royal events for most of his young life. His illness, however, hidden from the British public until he died at the tender age of 13. Due to the mystery and tragedy surrounding his death, Prince John’s life has been the subject of many movies, television shows, and theatre performances.
Prince George, Duke of Kent (1942)
Prince George, Duke of Kent widely known as a party prince. He was constantly finding himself embroiled in one kind of scandal or another–much to the chagrin of his long-suffering older brothers, Kings Edward VIII and George VI and the rest of the usually straight-laced British royal family. He was a habitual drug taker, enjoying everything from cocaine to morphine, and had affairs with several socialites. Prince George joined the RAF, becoming a very competent pilot. Unfortunately, right before the war in 1942, the plane he was in (or possibly flying drunk) crashed into a mountain. At just 39, the prince was dead. Watch on to discover the facts behind some of the Most Tragic Deaths in the British Royal Family since the 1800s.
King George VI (1952)
The death of King George VI in 1952 forced the current British monarch, an unprepared then-Princess Elizabeth, onto the throne at the tender age of 18. George was a heavy smoker and later in life developed cancer, most likely due to his unhealthy habit. His condition rapidly deteriorated after his diagnosis in 1951, and he died in his sleep at 52 years of age. Elizabeth was on a royal tour in Kenya with her new husband, Prince Philip, when she received news of her father’s death. She was quickly rushed home to attend the funeral and don the crown. Watch on to discover the facts behind some of the Most Tragic Deaths in the British Royal Family since the 1800s.
Prince William of Gloucester (1972)
Prince William of Gloucester, the Queen’s first cousin, shunned the public life of a monarch. Instead, he escaped into the diplomatic services and was posted to Japan in 1968. There he met former flight attendant and model Zsuzsi Starkloff. Despite a tumultuous relationship, the two were madly in love. Sadly, their romance was cut short in 1972, when William died in a plane crash. The plane crash was unexpected because William was an experienced pilot. He had even invited Starkloff to go with him that day, but she had other plans–thank goodness.
Lord Louis Mountbatten (1979)
Lord Louis Mountbatten was holidaying in Ireland at Classiebawn Castle when he decided to take his family and some friends out on a fishing trip. The year was 1979, and the country was still reeling from some of the worst incidents of The Troubles, a tumultuous time of domestic terrorism in Ireland. Little known to the fishing party, a member of the Irish Republican Army had placed a bomb on the boat. The explosion killed Lord Mountbatten’s grandson and a crew member instantly, while Lord Mountbatten died later from his injuries. Prince Charles exceedingly mourned his death because he looked up to Lord Mountbatten as a father figure. Watch on to discover the facts behind some of the Most Tragic Deaths in the British Royal Family since the 1800s.
Diana, Princess of Wales (1997)
The death of Diana, Princess of Wales, is probably the most well-known of all royal deaths. The British public and the world loved her due to her selfless character, generosity, and hard work for global charities. The monarch had recently left the monarchy after divorcing Prince Charles in 1996. In August 1997, she was driving in a car with her partner, Dodi Fayed, supposedly speeding to outrun a slew of paparazzi. The vehicle crashed horrifically in a tunnel, with everyone dying except Trevor Rees-Jones, Fayed’s bodyguard. Diana’s death was mourned by millions worldwide: her televised royal funeral was reportedly watched by 2.5 billion people. Diana left behind her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, who were just 15 and 12 at the time. Watch on to discover the facts behind some of the Most Tragic Deaths in the British Royal Family since the 1800s.
After hearing all of these shocking deadly secrets, would you want to wear the crown? Or would you instead leave it to someone prepared to sacrifice it all for the throne? Share your thoughts with other royal fans in the comment section below. If you want to see, more videos like this one, head over to the Facts Verse channel and subscribe. Hit that notification bell while you’re there. Oh, and don’t forget to give this video a thumbs up and share it with your friends and family.